Software sermons and hymns for the quicker vicar

THIS morning's lesson is taken from . . . a computer. And church services may never be the same again. This week a new 'software resource', WorshipMaster, is to be launched on unsuspecting British clergy, complete with 1,000 carefully selected hymns and songs, readings, prayers and other liturgical essentials.

Aided by the new 'software for the quicker vicar', in future all a clergyman will need to do in preparing the Sunday service for his flock is type in his chosen theme. After a moment's thought WorshipMaster will print him an entire Order of Service, including relevant prayers, liturgies, Bible readings and hymns.

If some of his favourite hymns are appearing too often, his computer will tell him and suggest an alternative selection. 'Add-on modules' include the Alternative Service Book, the Songs of Fellowship Combined Edition, and, shortly, Methodist, Baptist and United Reform Church texts.

What the publishers - Hodder and Stoughton and Oxford University Press - claim will be a 'revolution' in British churches has not come from the United States but has been developed by a British curate, Tim Anderson, in consultation with ministers from all denominations.

'In my experience the clergy are more computer-literate than the population in general,' said Mr Anderson, ofSt Mary's Church in Reigate. 'This will be a huge time-saver for them.'

All the vicar has to do now is come up with a sermon. And to help him in that, Hodder is also launching Logos Bible Study Software, containing several complete English translations of the Bible, Strong's Lexicon with Greek and Hebrew definitions, and a complete Greek New Testament.

In other ecclesiastically enhanced computer developments, the modern cleric can now programme his organ to play hymns and even plot the layout of his graveyard.

Dick Douglas, Hodder's director of Bible publishing, predicts that WorshipMaster will mean the end of churchgoers being supplied with a mound of different books when they attend services - enterprising vicars will simply plan the service, print it and make copies for everyone.

'It definitely does not interfere with the work of the Holy Spirit in church services,' said Mr Douglas. 'The primary use will be for clerics who work ahead, who get their guidance from the Holy Spirit in advance.'

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